Despiau Chevalets, the secrets behind a high-quality bridge

For 20 years Despiau Chevalets has exhibited its high-quality bridges at Cremona Musica. Waiting to meet them at Cremona Musica 2019, we interviewed Nicolas to discover the secrets behind their product, from the selection of the wood to the dialogue with the luthiers.


Your company was born more than 30 years ago: how did bridges change in more than 3 decades?

Here are some of the points which have had an influence on our bridges over the last 30 years. Our bridges have evolved thanks to a better listening from luthiers which has enabled us to develop a very wide range for the 4 families (violin viola cello and bass) with the challenge of the leg widths, heart positions and angulation heights. It has also taken us three decades to master the comprehension of tree selection to understand the wood mechanics according to the trees’ aesthetics, where they grow amongst other things. This has led us to gain some expertise regarding the assessment of wood density. We have established a link between a certain original natural colour and its mechanical and sound result. Over the years, we have improved our understanding of what we select and sort. We have also capitalized the knowledge and discoveries from our father, Jean-Louis DESPIAU, and we have made these evolve by correcting certain aspects, checking them and
bringing in our own discoveries in collaboration with instrument makers. Last but not least, over the last five years, we have become aware of the increasing depletion of our natural resource. This has led us to reflect and we have decided to develop a range presenting new specificities which will be launched next year. Despiau Chevalets works even more closely to the forest to understanding it better and better. We are working with it and not against it to protect our natural resource.


What are the main features a high-quality bridge should have?

The most important feature of a high-quality bridge comes from the tree selection where the differentiation is crucial. Then we need to remove the blank from the straightest part of the medullary rays of the tree. Indeed, these have an important role as they define the resistance to pressure and qualify the transmission of the vibrations. A tight grain is also extremely important in a high-quality bridge. Each individual bridge is subsequently produced and controlled by an expert eye. We make all necessary efforts with a very high requirement level to ease the task of the instrument makers by proposing the bridge the most suitable to them according to the issues encountered on their workbench. Indeed, once the production of a bridge is finished for us, we must understand its characteristics in order to ship it to the luthiers in response to a precise need (to bring more power to an instrument for example).


You take your wood from Bosnia’s maples: why did you choose this particular wood?

Bosnian wood is very nervous and dynamic and very light at the same time which are two important criteria for bridges. Besides, owing to its climate and geographical situation a lot more maple trees suitable for the production of bridges are available in Bosnia. There are also present in the neighbouring countries but with a much smaller percentage.


Do you cooperate with important artists or luthiers to develop particular bridges?

We do collaborate with a lot of instrument makers from all around the world and assist them with customized bridges developed specifically according to their requirements and based on our knowledge of wood selection too. Instrument makers are in contact with concert musicians because they have the knowledge and expertise to cater for their needs. Cutting a bridge takes time and is never easy, we deliver a semi-finished product as the violin makers require extra wood to cut where they need and where they want. Our direct interlocutors are the instrument makers whose expertise and analysis of an instrument enables us to supply them the bridge the most suitable to answer the issues they encounter.


Are you preparing something special for Cremona Musica 2019? Are you bringing any new products?

Despiau Chevalets will present its dynamic range concerning the violin, viola and French cello. The latter already rich in harmonics has been designed to boost the sound of the instruments.


What do expect from the upcoming edition of Cremona Musica?

This year we will be attending Cremona Musica for the 20th consecutive year. This is a not-to-be-missed event for us as we are in direct with link students to master luthiers, to share our point of view on wood quality, properties, design of bridge models. This is a very good indicator for us regarding the quality of our bridges and we are always very attentive to the feedback we receive.